It’s been a lovely few days in the Sultanate of Oman. Finding the time to write about it has been tough, but we’ve decided to have a relaxing evening upon a mountain tonight. Thus, I present to you, days one through three.
Hello Oman – Sunday
After renting a car and going the wrong way out of the airport (that’s normal, right?), we eventually found our way to our pre-booked hotel – the only planned part of this trip. The hotel was the perfect place to order room service, drink a half a bottle of wine, and get some much needed sleep (I mean, it’s a long day to sleep in and then travel from Kuwait to Oman…)
Day 2 – Monday
I started our first morning in Oman with a lovely jog through the neighbourhood. The mountains allowed my brain to wander as I trotted through the backstreets of this quiet neighbourhood. I enjoy jogging because it gives me time to breathe, to think, to ponder. The jog was a short one, since I’m still getting used to my barefoot shoes and I knew my gastrocnemii (say what?!) were going to hurt a lot.
The water pressure was great in the last shower I’d see for days, and the breakfast was tasty (well, sort of – I really just like the adjective ‘tasty’). We spent more time than necessary searching for a place to rent camping gear. We enjoyed every moment of it, even when we ended up in a small village in the middle of nowhere – camels roaming about and Omani men staring at us from their doorways. Since we aren’t in the market for planned, predictable vacations, we decided to continue on with only the tents we had brought. This type of “winging it” was quite normal for Saralyn, and this is precisely why I was excited to travel with her, but a small part of me was still a little worried. A hypermarket down the way proved very helpful in stocking us with warm-enough sleeping bags and quite comfortable mattresses for less money than we would have spent on rentals. The great thing about having a mid-sized car (oh, did I mention – none of the rental places had small vehicles left so we were forced into the luxury of a mid-sized vehicle) and only two people is that we can fit two thin mattresses in the car and still have space for all our other stuff.
After our hypermarket adventure and some good road-tripping, we arrived at our first destination – a beachfront hut-type accommodation that was recommended by a friend. The man, whose name we were never sure of, but we call him Salem, met us at a nearby gas station and showed us the way through the field of sand. The man called Salem cooked us some delicious fish – I ate an entire tuna!! – and took us out to see sea turtles in the evening. Okay, so the tuna was pretty small, but it’s been almost a year since my first truly enjoyable fish experience, so I’m pretty proud of this feat (oh, and I enjoyed it, too!). We saw two sea turtles laying eggs. I drove the Jeep-type vehicle through road-less sand, got it stuck, got us out, and continued on (okay, it may not have been quite that simple). On our way back, we saved 4 baby turtles who were looking for the water and maybe killed one. That’s a 4:1 ratio of saving to killing, so I’d say we’re in the turtle gods’ good book.
At some point that evening, it was brought to my attention that the water was glowing. Really – little specks of glow-in-the-dark awesomeness were coming ashore with the tide. Phosphorescent Plankton, I’ve learned they’re called. Have you ever seen these? SO COOL!!!
As I fell asleep that night, tears streamed down my face. I was so emotional, so upset. Life just isn’t fair! The Fault in Our Stars, while an enjoyable movie to have watched, was definitely a sad one.
Day 3 – Tuesday
Some fried bread and dolphin watching got us up and atom this morning. The man called Salem took us out on his boat to see many a dolphin flying through the waters. They are beautiful, graceful creatures. It was a quick trip, and then we packed up and were on our way to our next adventure.
We decided against the Bedouin Camp that I had just received confirmation of, when we realized it was going to cost us an additional 40 OMR (about $120) just to get into the camp. That, on top of the regular camp fees, was just more than we thought this experience was worth. So, on we went, unplanned and free. We decided to search for a popular sinkhole, which was quite beautiful. I disliked that its surroundings had been modified to seem so much less natural, even though the sinkhole itself appeared quite authentic. I insisted that we go to Wadi Ash Shab, a place I had been last year when I was in Oman. It was one of the most memorable experiences of my last trip and I felt that Saralyn should have this experience, too. This is where the lack of planning can be a small drawback because our experience in the Wadi, while still good, was cut quite short when the man told us we had to be back at the boat by 5:00. This was at 3:15, before we began the 45 minute hike into the Wadi. It was a wonderful hike in, and the water was enjoyable for swimming. Saralyn was able to swim in further to see the amazing cave I raved about. Unfortunately, she wasn’t able to fully appreciate it as I had done over a year ago, but we’re both glad we were able to see this natural beauty.
As the sun set on the horizon, we began to drive toward our next destination. We stopped for dinner in Sur, at a small restaurant with a sign saying “Restaurant”. As we approached, the many men outside stared. I’ve gotten so used to the negative attention we Western women get from the men in Kuwait that I’ve forgotten there are good people out there. These men were simply curious. Why are these Western women here? Are they lost? Are they going to eat? Will the food be too spicy for them? And so on. We were treated like celebrities when one man asked to have his picture taken with us. We obliged with smiles and were glad he wasn’t degrading and wasn’t attempting to “pick us up”. Most people in this world are good and I like that.
Against all common sense, I decided to navigate using Google Maps. After getting lost on unfinished roads, in our front-wheel drive car, in the pitch black night, we decided on a more reliable route, which our guidebook confirmed to be finished. Eventually, we pitched a tent on the side of a road busy with speeding trucks throughout the night. Not quite a sleepless night, but close. The coming days gave us our much-needed fill of green space and hiking.